Korean Air heiress to be indicted

January 5, 2015
Korean Airline ex-vice president Heather Cho (Korea Times file)

Korean Airline ex-vice president Cho Hyun-ah. (Korea Times file)

SEOUL, Jan. 6 (Yonhap) — Prosecutors said Tuesday that they plan to indict a former vice president of South Korea’s top airline, Korea Air Lines Co., later this week over a controversial air-rage incident.

Cho Hyun-ah, the eldest daughter of Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho, resigned as a vice president for cabin service four days after a national uproar over her conduct aboard a Seoul-bound Korean Air flight from New York on Dec. 5.

The plane had already been taxiing when she ordered the chief flight attendant to deplane over the way she was served macadamia nuts — in an unopened pack instead of on a plate. She was angry because she believed the crew did not follow the proper procedure for serving nuts to first-class passengers.

The flight was subsequently returned to the gate to deplane the purser, causing an 11-minute delay in its arrival at Seoul’s main gateway, Incheon International Airport. More than 250 passengers were on board.

Prosecutors at Seoul Western District Prosecutors’ Office probing the case said they plan to bring charges against Cho on Tuesday at the earliest.

The charges against Cho will include violations of aviation safety regulations — changing flight plans and assault on a plane — and coercion and interference in the execution of duty, according to the prosecutors.

Cho had already been detained since Dec. 30 after a local court issued a warrant, citing “the gravity of the issue as well as the organized efforts to cover up her involvement from the initial stage.”

The prosecution office said it also plans to indict a Korean Air executive, identified only by his surname Yeo, on charges of ordering employees to delete an initial report of the incident.

A transportation ministry official, surnamed Kim who leaked details of a government investigation into the case to Yeo, will also be indicted, they said.

Prosecutors said they will also continue looking into suspicions that government officials got free upgrades from Korean Air.

Allegations recently surfaced that several ranking transportation ministry officials were bumped up to business class regularly for free.